ITHCWY: Robert Ellison's Blog

The Harvard Business Review Fallacy

A typical Harvard Business Review two by two grid where it's easy to guess the good quadrant

Every Harvard Business Review article worth it’s salt boils some complex problem down to a two by two grid. Usually something like awesomeness and profitability:

Being non-profitable and not awesome is no fun. Awesomeness without profitability might work for some organizations. Being profitable but not awesome for others. But the place to be is awesome and profitable!

With this bracing insight the authors will cherry pick some companies that match the upper-right hand quadrant and tediously stretch their turpid insight out to book length.

In reality this is a false dilemma (or technically a false tetralemma, but that’s an awkward phrase so I prefer the HBR fallacy instead).

My favorite example is Pascal’s Wager. This is a typical HBR two by two grid based on belief in God and the existence of God.

  1. Don’t believe / No God, you’re fine (meh).

  2. Don’t believe / God, go to Hell (infinite punishment).

  3. Believe / No God, you’re fine (meh).

  4. Believe / God, go to Heaven (infinite reward).

You only have one rational choice here says Pascal.

There is a lot wrong with this argument, but the wrongest thing is the HBR fallacy. There are infinitely many possible Gods with infinitely many good and bad outcomes. You might be living in a universe where the only God is the God of the Thargoids. The one real God might send you to Heaven only if you kill a gopher every Wednesday.

Nobody is going to open any doors and show you any goats.

The end of Facebook

Holy shit I just finished Facebook. Didn't think that was possible. It was passably tolerable while it lasted but I guess I need to find something else now...

Excessive Book Reviews

You know how you're debugging and comment out that return statement that stops book reviews from being posted more than once a month so you can get to the bottom of a problem without constantly deleting posts? And then you get distracted and push a new version of the blog software with that return statement still commented out? Thankfully that task is only scheduled to run every four hours. Sorry.

Book reviews for March 2017

UnHappenings by Edward Aubry

UnHappenings by Edward Aubry



Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff



News: When should web designers use modal overlays?

When should web designers use modal overlays?

"OK, yes, there are times when modals make sense (compose new tweet comes to mind), but if the web has a bigger annoyance than this (apart, possibly, from autoplay video), I don't know what it is."

Please enjoy the irony of trying to read this article on a mobile phone while the text shifts crazily around the page to make room for the autoplay video ad.

Cataract Creek

Cataract Creek

Vernal Equinox 2017

Green Belt

San Francisco Interior Green Belt

Book reviews for February 2017

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang


Stories of Your Life was made into Arrival, and it's a great story but just one of many in this book. Only one fell flat for me. Ted Chiang has a thought and then takes it so devastatingly literally that it will take you a while to stop thinking about it.


The End Has Come (The Apocalypse Triptych, #3) by John Joseph Adams

The End Has Come (The Apocalypse Triptych, #3) by John Joseph Adams


A cunning ploy - like most sets of short stories this is a mixed bag. The sting in the tail is that most continue in some form through all three books in the series so you have to read all three (if you have trouble not finishing a story, there isn't an executive order or anything). It's probably more of an investment than the material warrants (I'd have preferred a single and more tightly edited volume). It does however include a new strand of the Wool saga as well as a few other standouts so if you have the time, dive in.


Resist Report

Resist Report

My February resolution was to do something to #Resist Trump every day. Here's the breakdown:

Calls to Congress: 77

Non-profits donated to: 15

Failing media subscriptions: 4

Protests attended: 2

Advocacy sites launched and promoted: 1

I'll ease off a bit and try something else in March. But the routine of doing something every day has been really helpful. I've gone from saying I really should do something to actually getting in the habit of actively resisting.